LOS ANGELES (AP) — Khris Middleton scored 14 of his season-high 30 points in the fourth quarter, Greg Monroe added 12 points before his ejection and the Milwaukee Bucks kept up their furious playoff push with their eighth victory in nine games, 107-103 over the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday night.
Monroe and Lakers guards D’Angelo Russell and Nick Young were ejected with 36 seconds left in the third quarter after a fracas started by Malcolm Brogdon’s hard foul on Young, who shoved back. Monroe then shoved Young, and Russell shoved Monroe while every player on the court got involved.
Jordan Clarkson scored 21 points for the Lakers, who trimmed Milwaukee’s lead from 18 points to 103-100 with 7.9 seconds left.
After Brogdon hit two free throws, Clarkson made his fourth 3-pointer, but Middleton hit two free throws with 1.6 seconds left.
Milwaukee’s Greek star Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 26 points before fouling out for the Bucks (34-34), who are in seventh place in the Eastern Conference standings with a good shot at their second winning season in 14 years.
Rookie Ivica Zubac had 18 points and eight rebounds for the Lakers (20-49), who have lost 12 of 13. Only Brooklyn has a poorer record than the Lakers, whose fall has increased their chances of keeping their first-round pick this summer.
Young scored 16 points and Russell had 14 before their ejections, but the Bucks appeared to be cruising to an easy win before the prolonged scuffle. They had opened up an 18-point lead while Antetokounmpo scored 12 points in the first 6:15 of the third.
But the brouhaha inspired the Lakers, who trimmed Milwaukee’s lead to single digits and kept up the pressure down the stretch. Los Angeles cut Milwaukee’s edge to 99-93 with 4:55 left but then failed to score for the next 3 1/2 minutes.
Antetokounmpo fouled out with 7.9 seconds left, but Julius Randle made only one ensuing free throw.
The Bucks have made their postseason surge even without second-leading scorer Jabari Parker, who is out for the year after tearing a knee ligament last month.
Milwaukee leads eighth-place Miami (34-35) by a half-game, and the Bucks opened up a 1 1/2-game lead over the ninth-place Detroit Pistons (33-36), who lost to Toronto.
The Lakers were officially eliminated from playoff contention.
While Lakers coach Luke Walton praised his players’ response to the skirmish and saw problems with nearly every decision made by the officials in its aftermath, Milwaukee coach Jason Kidd said he was pleased by his team’s resilience.
“After things like that, there’s always a momentum swing, and it swung their way,” Kidd said. “The guys stayed the course. They kept playing, and we found a way to keep the lead and finish the game.”